The past few days have been full of stress and concern for the mountain of reading I must scale in order to perform up to par on my first to written exams tomorrow (Weds). Two weeks ago I was really beginning to feel at home, as I felt the comforting sense of familiarity as a left the subway station on Manuel Montt, skateboarding down the street keeping a wary eye out for cars, when entering the bathroom downstairs, not shared with anybody, the familiar look of the toilette, my towel the only one which hangs on the rack, my shaver still sitting on the counter from the previous four days. Unlike all of this, during the past two weeks I have felt a great struggle to fit in, awkwardly misunderstanding people when they talk to me, and completely lost in my clases.
Last Tuesday, my interview for an internship was amazing. I was complimented on my Spanish as well as my background in sustainability. Ten minutes later, in my social work class, I felt completely out of place. While the professor was talking I felt as if I could understand every word she was saying. However, after she had completed each sentence or came to a rest, I would quickly try to recall her point and find myself in a linguistic oblivion. On leaving the class I felt as if I understood barely fifty per cent of the lecture, much less of the logistical information such as where to obtain the readings and how to get into a group for the project, or even when this project is due.
This continued in a few of my other classes this week as well. On reviewing my notes I find that I have written down only the words from the beginnings or ends of sentences, most often missing the key words and fundamental points of the lectures. I leave the lecture feeling like a “tonto gringo” unable to adapt to his new cultural setting.
Today was the most horrible of all. I had about five important things to take care of today, including fix my camera, pay for my student metro card, and go to the EAP office to lay my bag of issues on their desk. But due to so many little problems with paying for this metro card, all other issues had to be dropped. This metro card sucked up my day as I had to keep running back and forth between my house and the internet café attempting to format the document in a manner that would print.
Things got even worse when I finally made it to campus for the review session for my European history class. Again, I was hit with the feeling like I understand everything, quickly shifting to I understand nothing. After the session the only thing the T.A. was able to help me with was to direct me to where I can obtain the hundreds of pages I would have to read for one of my two exams tomorrow.
Trabajo Social, was surprisingly a relief in today’s miseries. Unlike last week, I could really understand what she was saying this time, able to actually leave the lecture feeling somewhat emboldened and provoked to think about new issues. I also found a group studying an interesting subject with, by chance, two students from California. I left this class slightly more relaxed, yet still full of uncertainty.
After a few more emails and a ton of thinking, I decided it is in my best interest to drop a class. However, the question remained as to which one I would drop. I had narrowed it down to one of the history courses, both of which I have an essay test in tomorrow. I decided to study for both as if I was not going to drop either, than drop whichever I felt I did worse on the exam.
As I was checking email I noticed Eric was on facebook. I asked him if he was ready for tomorrow’s exam. His response got me comically frustrated. For he was correct, the exam was not tomorrow but next Wednesday. I felt as if I had wasted half the day stressing about nothing. I then decided to continue studying for European history with the intention of seeing how I would do on the exam tomorrow. But after browsing the major approved summer session courses I had already made up my mind. I am going to drop this course. Although this subject interests me, there is no need to take a class on 20th century European history in Spanish, in Chile, on top of everything else I have to worry about.
I have grown accustomed to overworking myself. Despite the fruits of success it has brought me, my overambitious nature has also robbed me of any free time over the past year, plaguing me with unneeded stress. I have decided that it is time to take a step back and actually enjoy where I am, what I’m doing, and who I am becoming. There is so much I am able to continue to learn without overworking myself. In fact, by providing myself with the freedom of dropping one class, I will now have more time to devote to learning in the other three, and more importantly in this situation, outside of the classroom. This will bring me more time to spend with my host family, Chilean friends, internships, volunteer work, and most importantly it will allow me to interact in all these situations without begin burdened by the stress and preoccupation of constantly struggling to keep up to date with the readings and preparing for exams.
I can characterize each year of college as a growth in a unique area. My freshman year was an explosion of social networking, breaking out from behind the shy wall I had been stuck behind since middle school. Sophomore year was the largest growing experience to date, slowing down this social exploration and looking inward to begin defining myself. Junior year I began to focus on school, realizing its importance. Senior year I continued this trend, championing the knowledge I had gained from classes and internships. The summer before my 5th year I began to realize that this year would be characterized by taking all of that knowledge, all of that experience that I had spend the previous four years learning, take it out of the academic setting and apply it to real life. What better way to do it than in a different country, far away from the orange curtain, with people who have never even heard of Orange County much less Irvine. I am prepared to do this now, with the freedom I will give myself by dropping only one class. It is time I follow the motto I have always idealized: quality over quantity.
March 29, 2010
P.S. I hope you guys enjoy this. This is the first time I have published any of my thoughts to this degree. To be perfectly honest I was going to write this by hand in my journal, but I was too tired and decided typing would be much more efficient. The window in the mind of Seth has been opened.